U.S. spares Western states from Colorado River water cuts – for now

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Aug 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. government has spared seven western states from mandatory cuts to the Colorado River for now, but warned Tuesday that drastic conservation was needed to protect dwindling reservoirs from overuse and severe drought exacerbated by climate change.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had given states 60 days in June, until mid-August, to negotiate their own cuts or possibly face mandatory cuts imposed by the federal government. Federal officials called for reduced use of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water per year, an unprecedented 15% to 30% reduction in the coming year.

But officials from the agency and the Department of the Interior told a news conference they would give states more time to negotiate a deal that affects the water supplies of 40 million people.

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Instead, they fell back on previously negotiated austerity measures that will impose rebates for the second year in a row on Nevada, Arizona and the nation of Mexico, which is also getting an allotment on the Colorado River.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau said federal officials would continue to work with the seven Colorado River states to reach a deal: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

“That said, we stand firm in the need to protect the system,” Beaudreau said, adding that he has been encouraged by the talks so far and by new federal funding for water resources.

Despite this, federal officials said more spending cuts were needed, both under terms already negotiated in the 100-year-old Colorado River compact and the 21st-century reality of human-influenced climate change, resulting in higher temperatures and drier soils.

A 24-month forecast released Tuesday showed falling levels of the river’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, will fuel the previously negotiated cuts.

An aerial view of Lake Powell can be seen, where the water level has dropped dramatically to a low not seen since it was filled in the 1960s as growing demand for water and climate change shrink the Colorado River, creating challenges for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. recreation in Page, Arizona , US, April 20, 2022. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs/Files

In Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, inventories will be reduced for the second year in a row: 21% for Arizona, 8% for Nevada and 7% for Mexico.

They are the first to be subject to budget cuts under the Colorado River Compact. Last year they were hit for the first time with 18%, 7% and 5% reductions respectively.

Negotiations over further cuts are fueling tensions between the states, especially as California, the largest user, has so far avoided spending cuts due to low reservoir levels.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell are barely more than a quarter of their capacity. If they fall much lower, they won’t be able to generate hydroelectric power for millions in the West.

“It is unacceptable that Arizona continues to bear a disproportionate burden of reductions on behalf of others who have not contributed,” Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, said in a statement.

John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said Tuesday he hoped for more urgency from the agency.

“It’s possible for us to make the bigger cuts needed, but I think everyone at the table will have to realize that everyone has to suffer a commensurate level of pain to get there,” Entsminger said.

The 23-year megadrought, the worst on record in at least 1,200 years, is testing the strength of the compact, which a century ago believed could supply 20 million acre feet of water each year. The river’s actual flow rate has averaged 12.5 million acre feet over the past two decades, giving state water managers more rights on paper than the water in the river.

“As we have emphasized since taking office, the conditions we face will require rapid action and increased water conservation in every state, in every sector,” said Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Ministry’s assistant secretary for water and science.

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Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Caitlin Ochs; Editing by Donna Bryson and Josie Kao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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